Frequently Barked Questions

Dog care during the Coronavirus pandemic

Thank you for reaching out to us. Know that we are here for both you & your dog during this time of need. We know that these times are uncertain so we have compiled a series of common questions about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in relation to your dog. 

While we've done our best to provide current information on this topic by speaking with trusted veterinarians, what is known about COVID-19 is changing quickly. We recommend that you call your vet for the most up-to-date information and for specific advice relating to your pet.

If you have any additional questions, don't hesitate to reach out to our Happy Team.

  • What can we do to take care of our dogs without potentially increasing the spread?

    “If you can keep up safety precautions yet still go on long walks with your dog  that would be ideal to cover the physical stimulation aspect. Getting outside is great! Don’t allow people to pet your dog.” (Shelby Semel, head of Shelby Semel dog training)

    “Play at home or in the yard. Open your BarkBox and put that stuff to the test in the safety and comfort of your living room! If you can take a walk when fewer people or dogs are around (and it is OK to do so according to local health authorities) then go for a stroll. Watch Bird Box on Netflix while you play with your BarkBox. Avoid trips to the vet for routine matters, but check with your local vet ER about their policies for emergencies. Order dog food online (toys, too!). Remember – whatever you are doing to isolate yourself should also apply to your dog.” (Dr. Tony Johnson)

    “The most important thing you can do is offer enrichment through toys, games, play, and using tools such as food puzzles to make up for any reduced social opportunities your dog may experience during this time. You can find many tips on canine enrichment at”  (Fear Free / Dr. Marty Becker’s team)

  • How long does COVID-19 stay on surfaces (like dog toys)?

    “On some surfaces, only a few hours. On others, it can persist for a few days. You might want to think about sanitizing hard dog toys with boiling water or alcohol if that’s possible. Softer toys – see if they are washable. Don’t use bleach or any harsh chemicals that might come into contact with your dog’s mouth. This probably is not needed unless your dog has come into contact with many other dogs or a known infected person.” (Dr. Tony Johnson)

    “According to the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at UF guidance, around five days.”  (Fear Free / Dr. Marty Becker’s team)

  • Is it safe to wash toys, collars, leashes, etc.? Will that help eliminate any spread?

    “See above – if they are washable, it’s reasonable to do so, but probably not needed unless they have come into contact with many dogs or infected people.” (Dr. Tony Johnson)

    “Yes, they should all be washed following the guidelines for surfaces and household items issued by the CDC.”  (Fear Free / Dr. Marty Becker’s team)

  • How do I keep my dog stimulated indoors?

    “When you are busy and working from home, use interactive treat toys, snuffle mats, etc. Order some new ones if needed!  Or make your own.  A treat or two in an empty water bottle or inside a sock can keep a dog occupied for a long time :) Some good ones are: Anything by Nina Ottoson, busy buddy twist and treat, and/or a Kong wobbler.” (Shelby Semel, head of Shelby Semel dog training)

    “Teach your dog new trade or job such as:

    Nose work! You can make your apartment a nose work course, check out this YouTube: There are also tons of others and different versions that are even simpler to start. You can experiment and see what works for you and your dog.  And if you get really into It, you can get scent oils and really go all in! This is particularly good for hounds and other working breeds but even a maltese or a golden can enjoy!”  (Shelby Semel, head of Shelby Semel dog training)

    “Teach new tricks ! 

    Use capturing, shaping, and luring to teach new cues and tricks. Some examples are: Weaving through legs, rollover, grabbing a tissue when I say achoo, hand me an item, opening and closing drawers.” (Shelby Semel, head of Shelby Semel dog training)
  • What are tips and tricks when WFH with an active pup?

    Tons of fetch, running up and down the halls also can help. Within your apartment if there are multiple people you can call your dog back and forth, or even hide a bit like a game of hide and go seek. When they find you they get a tiny treat and then they can go off looking for the next person and then you can change locations. You can call their name and make kissy noises to get them to start looking!” (Shelby Semel, head of Shelby Semel dog training)

    “Also, dog trainers like Shelby still often are doing in home session (while taking tons of precautions) or virtual sessions to help with anything large or small! This is a great time to work slowly on separation anxiety, doorbell anxiety/ excitement, and dog to dog reactivity!” (Shelby Semel, head of Shelby Semel dog training) --Note: if people want to do a virtual session with Shelby and her team, feel free to send them her way! They’re doing them at a discount right now. Website is: 


  • If quarantined, what are the best items to have in the house for my dogs?

    “One of my favorite toys to combat boredom is a toy that can be stuffed with peanut butter or treats. Some dogs – especially those that are highly food-motivated – can play with these for hours. Puzzles, chew toys, rope toys – all are great for hours of happy play and chewing. Stock up on mail order food and dog toys, and make sure you have enough medication (for yourself and your pets) to make it through.  The bottom line for your dog is very similar to what WHO, CDC and other health authorities are saying for people: practice safe hygiene and common sense, stay away from large gatherings and known infected people and don’t panic. Together, you and your dog (with maybe a few great toys to beat isolation and boredom) will all get through this.” (Dr. Tony Johnson)

    “You’ll want to have a two-week supply of food and any other items such as medication, litter, etc., that your pet needs. Also, line up enrichment items. Even a dog who is happy watching TV with you on the sofa will benefit from tools like food puzzles.” (Fear Free / Dr. Marty Becker’s team)

Bios of experts:

Shelby Semel is a dog trainer based in NYC. She decided to dedicate her life to working with animals upon graduating from the University of Michigan in 2007.   She is Certified by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, and is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT).  She is constantly keeping up with the newest development in canine training and studies regarding dog psychology and behavior. Her techniques are unique and flexible as no dogs are alike; each training session is tailored to suit each owner and dog. She is the go to trainer for BARK NYC office as well.  She currently resides in New York City with her Pomeranian Taz and Chihuahua Xena, who makes sure she’s up to par on her training skills! Shelby is also a proud volunteer of Shelter Chic, Unleashed NY, and Animal Care Center of NYC. 

Dr. Tony Johnson, DVM, DACVECC, is a 1996 Washington State University grad and obtained board certification in the shadowy art of emergency medicine and critical care in 2003. He is currently the Minister of Happiness for VIN and is a former clinical assistant professor at Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. He has lectured for several international veterinary conferences and is an active blogger and writer. He used to live in a converted one-room schoolhouse in the middle of a cornfield, but has since taken up occupancy in a normal house in a normal neighborhood with very little corn. He has three young kids and a beautiful wife named Gretchen, who is also a veterinary emergency and critical care specialist.  His animal family consists of: Cupid – formerly shot with an arrow, now a feline meatloaf; Crispy – formerly set on fire, now rules with a furry feline iron fist; and canine Rocco, missing a leg from a Buick-induced injury. The chickens are Uno, Rosita, and Carlita, and he plans on naming his next chicken Omelet. He has lost count of how many fish they have, and believes it is in the low double digits. In his spare time he enjoys sleeping, eating and breathing with occasional forays into woodworking, cooking, wine, reading and writing (but not arithmetic). 

Fear Free: Founded in 2016 by “America’s Veterinarian” Dr. Marty Becker, Fear Free provides online and in-person education to veterinary professionals, the pet professional community, and pet owners. Our courses are developed and written by the most respected veterinary and pet experts in the world, including boarded veterinary behaviorists, boarded veterinary anesthesiologists, pain experts, boarded veterinary internists, veterinary technicians (behavior), experts in shelter medicine, animal training, grooming, boarding, and more.By closely listening to the needs of the profession and those of pet owners, Fear Free has become one of the single most transformative initiatives in the history of companion animal practice, providing unparalleled education on emotional wellbeing, enrichment, and the reduction of fear, anxiety, and stress in pets.



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